Artificial Intelligence (AI) is bringing a wide variety of innovative AI-driven business solutions to the market, with AI helping to generate new efficiencies and solve problems in almost every field, with applications ranging from voice-driven customer service to improving diagnoses in healthcare. Here is why the next frontier of enterprise sales growth will be AI-powered.
AI and machine learning have significant potential, unlike any other technology developed before.
AI and machine learning will help us analyze data more quickly, generate better insights, and improve the performance of our organizations in ways that were never imaginable until today.
AI is especially relevant during the COVID-19 crises.
The power of AI, and its transformative potential to improve performance, is especially relevant, during this moment of COVID-19 and COVID-economic crisis. The transformative potential is essential to the world of enterprise sales.
Many sales organizations are now finding themselves in an unprecedented moment of challenge. The old tactics and methodologies that used to work during the past 10 years of economic boom are not going to work in times of uncertainty and recession.
Sales teams are now being confronted with a new mandate to improve sales productivity while managing costs. The current challenge is more urgent than at any time since the Great Recession of 2008-2009.
Overcoming this moment of challenge is going to require a new level of adaptability, agility, and cultural shift among sales leaders. AI-powered tools for enterprise sales are likely to be a big part of the solution for leading organizations.
Let’s explore a few reasons why the moment is right for more sales organizations to embrace the opportunity of AI-powered customer intelligence for enterprise sales growth.
The Current Crisis Facing Enterprise Sales
Sales productivity is a common bottom-line challenge for enterprise companies, even during the best of economic times. The old saying of the Pareto Principle is as true as it ever was; most enterprise chief revenue officers (CROs) will tell you that 80% of their sales come from their top sales reps. But too many other salespeople are lagging behind.
Even during the pre-crisis days, according to Salesforce, 57% of sales reps expected to miss quota this year, and 28% of sales reps expected to reach only 75% or less of their quotas.
Have you been concealing your sales shortcomings?
During the past ten years pre-COVID crisis, when the economy was growing strong, it was easy for sales teams to conceal the shortcomings of their lower-performing sales reps. As long as revenue kept growing and everyone was making money, no problem, right?
Well, during years of a rising tide, sometimes it’s easy to lose focus on the quality of any individual boat. This new economic downturn is going to separate the high performers from the rest ruthlessly.
What Do Sales Teams Need Now?
Since so many sales reps have already been missing quota, even during the best economy of our lifetimes, what does that tell us?
Sales productivity is a multifaceted challenge, and it’s too simplistic and unfair to single out sales for criticism. When sales miss quota, sometimes it’s a personal performance issue or a lack of fit, but more often it’s a problem caused by lack of training, tools, and guidance on where to focus.
Research from the Brevit Group states that 55% of the people making their living in sales don’t have the skills to be successful, and it takes ten months for a new sales rep to become fully productive.
Too many sales reps are being thrown into the deep end without being taught how to swim; they’re not getting the right training, coaching, and ongoing guidance to keep focusing on the right activities and the right priorities. They’re not getting the right customer intelligence and insights to help them understand what customers need, and how to most effectively build relationships with buyers.
Help your sales team been successful.
The answer to this current moment of crisis is not “fire all the sales reps.” Instead, this moment is an opportunity to look at what we can do differently to put the sales team in the position to be successful.
One of the most significant areas of opportunity for enterprise sales is to improve its customer intelligence. By knowing more about the customer, by generating insights in precise and data-driven ways, sales teams can be better equipped for every customer conversation and be ready to generate bigger sales success.
Redefining Customer Intelligence
The customer intelligence market is projected by MarketWatch to reach $5 billion by 2022. This is the next frontier of sales productivity: finding ways to identify the right sales priorities, help the sales team get equipped with the right analysis and insights, and create more productive and value-added conversations with prospective customers.
There are already so many great sales productivity tools, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, and other software platforms on the market. But many of these are point solutions that do not address the underlying challenges.
What do we really need now from our sales teams?
The question of what we need from sales is especially relevant in this moment of economic crisis. What do we need salespeople to deliver for the customer?
Salespeople can no longer afford to be order-takers. Customers won’t give them the time for long discovery cycles. Sales teams no longer have time for unproductive cold calls or time-wasting meetings.
Every sales conversation needs to be hyper-focused and purposeful, with specific emphasis on presenting data-driven insights that are specific to the customer’s needs. This is what customer intelligence means, and it’s more important than ever.
We need to change the way that sales teams think about their jobs. Salespeople should be expert guides on a customer’s journey, framing outcomes in terms that are personalized to the customer’s needs.
Better customer intelligence, powered by AI, can make this happen. Sales reps need to research their customer’s business and industry challenges just as well as the customer does. With the right data-driven insights, sales reps can be proactive in contacting customers at the right moment in the buyer’s journey.
There could be a tendency to drive up the volume of outbound calling to get to the fewer opportunities available.
I would disagree and suggest Sales look for lower volume but a higher quality outreach to be more precise on the ask and ultimately to drive up conversion rates.
Sales execs need to be trusted advisors and industry peers. They need to be armed with the right business and financial intelligence to be able to serve in a more consultative selling approach. They need to be able to show their customers specific answers, insights, and data-driven ROI for how the salesperson’s solutions can help that customer’s company survive and thrive in this new economic reality.
We need the sales team to add even more value than before, by serving in a different role. This is one method for how customer intelligence can drive transformational change in sales productivity.
Replicating Secrets of the Top Sales Performers
Another challenge to sales teams is that there is such a wide gap between the top sales performers (the reps who hit quota) and the lagging performers (the reps who don’t hit quota).
Salespeople by their nature are highly competitive, and the top performers rightfully tend to guard their secrets.
But what if we could replicate the competitive “secret sauce” of the best-performing salespeople? The best-performing-secret-sauce-of-sales is how new AI technology can help. Companies have an opportunity today to use AI-driven customer intelligence tools to bridge the fundamental skills gap between top sellers and the rest.
AI-powered customer intelligence isn’t about taking anything away from your top sales performers, it’s about helping bring the rest of your sales team up to a higher level.
With the right customer intelligence, your sales team can:
- Identify which accounts and which customers to prioritize.
- Find specific pain points and levels of urgency for certain buyers/groups.
- Create a personalized point of view for engaging the customer.
- Create more compelling sales presentations, better sales deliverables, and make clear the business case to the buyer’s priorities.
AI is making all of this possible, by helping sales teams to sort and analyze data faster, to uncover the most crucial business insights, and to help salespeople prioritize and prepare for every sales activity in a more thorough way.
Imagine if your sales team could be armed with AI-powered insights about your customers. What if you could know more about what your customer’s buying cycle, what your customer’s biggest pain points are, what are the emerging industry trends that your customer needs to stay in front of, and what are the specific drivers of ROI that can make the business case for your customer to buy from you right now?
What if your lowest-performing sales reps could start performing like your best reps?
What if every member of the sales team could suddenly feel the confidence to speak like trusted advisors who bring real value and urgently-needed insights to every customer conversation? What if you could achieve higher yields per sales rep, higher sales conversions across the sales team, more wins per quarter, and exponential increases in revenue?
These are the types of highly specific insights and successful outcomes that the power of AI can bring to the world of customer intelligence for enterprise sales.
AI is bringing transformative change to almost every industry, by automating processes, supporting human decision making, and helping people do their jobs better.
The world of enterprise sales is poised to benefit immensely from the power of AI for improving customer intelligence. By analyzing data and generating insights, AI-powered customer intelligence has the potential to help sales teams save time, prioritize their efforts on the right customers and at the right moments of opportunity, and conduct better-informed sales planning and strategy.
Knowing your customer has always been one of the first imperatives of sales teams.
But today, every sales conversation needs to have an impact. Especially in a time of economic downturn, sales teams need to maximize their time, avoid wasting effort and make sure that every contact with a customer is helping to build relationships and move the sales process forward.
AI-powered customer intelligence is the answer to the biggest challenges of today’s enterprise sales teams. We are just beginning to see the potential for how AI can help salespeople do their jobs more efficiently than ever before.